You don’t have to be a crazy cat lady to enjoy Keanu By Kaely Monahan
Action-comedy films have been missing one crucial ingredient for years: kittens. Clearly comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele knew this off the bat when they embarked on the absurd yet utterly delightful Keanu.
Key and Peele are well known for playing with stereotypes and stretching comedy in bold and unexpected ways. This, their first, feature film together shows them in their top form as comedians, but they are, surprisingly, good storytellers and the film actually holds up.
Let’s make one thing clear: the true star of the film is the little kitten, affectionately named Keanu. Without him the entire film would fall apart. The little tabby is first introduced as the gang pet of an L.A. drug dealer. The film opens with a bloody action sequence that delights in dramatic music and slow-motion sequences. Bullets fly, blood sprays, and the little kitten epically dodges the many panicked feet. He escapes the bloodbath only to be confronted with the big bad world of Los Angeles. (Do you feel your heart strings pulled yet?)
Meanwhile, Rell (Jordan Peele) is reeling from a bad breakup with his girlfriend. He sees no purpose to life and he weeps while he smokes his bong and generally laments life. His cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key), is a happily married, type-A motivational speaker whose goal in life is to make others happy. He’s also the whitest black man you’ll ever see. His wife (Nia Long) encourages him to do something that makes him happy for once while she and their daughter take a weekend out of town. Clarence assures her he'll do just that if it will make her happy. (Old habits die hard.)
Ever the cheerleader, Clarence starts his weekend of “me time” with the intention of consoling Rell. Unbeknownst to them both, fate or rather a “purr-pose” comes scratching at Clarence’s door. The lost little tabby is instantly adopted by Clarence who names the stray Keanu. With hours he turns into the black man version of a crazy cat lady. (But who can blame him? Keanu truly is adorable.)
After a night out at the movies, the boys return to find Rell’s house broken into and Keanu missing. Distraught beyond reason, Clarence attempts to life Rell’s spirits by searching for the lost cat. They discover from Rell’s neighbor and pot dealer, a cornrowed Will Forte, that the 17th Street Blips are the cat-burglars.
Determined to rescue Keanu, Rell along with a reluctant Clarence mascarade as the deadliest killers in the L.A. underground—the Allentown brothers. Together they infiltrate the Blips’ HQ, the hilariously named HPV strip club (that’s the Hot Party Vixens). It’s a rocky start as they are the anything but "hardcore gangstas," but somehow they manage to convince the Blips that they are the real deal. However, in order to get Keanu back they have to prove themselves to the Blips’ leader, Cheddar (Method Man). He has them take his crew out on a drug drop, which inevitably turns into a side-splitting disaster.
The plot is ridiculous. In fact, the entire premise is weak, but the laughs keep coming as Key and Peele successfully transform their sketch comedy skills into a feature length film with enough plot and heart to keep it going.
One of the highlights of the entire film is Key’s Clarence educating the hardened gang members on the brilliance that is George Michael. You’ll be hard pressed to not sing along. Peele’s character gets a chance to rebound with the tough and very impressive Hi-C, performed by a delightfully thuggish Tiffany Haddish.
Toss in a good amount of guns, blood, money and car chases and this film turns into a regular action-adventure that should make you purr with delight.
At the film's heart, however, is the love a man for his cat. It must be said the chemistry between Peele and Keanu is utterly convincing. When they share the screen, you actually believe they have a thing for each other. Will we be seeing them in the tabloids? It’s too soon to tell, but one thing is for sure. They make an adorable couple.
On the surface, Keanu is just silly, but it holds up and is actually better than expected. It will keep humor-hounds, Key and Peele fans, and crazy cat ladies thoroughly amused. This film could be the next sleeper hit. At any rate, it’s a hit in my book.
- Kaely Monahan is a journalist, graduate of City University London and the creator of Popcorn Fan Film Reviews. Follow her @PopcornFans and @KaelyMonahan.